Remembering Robbie Ross

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Photo of Robert Ross age 24 | Wikipedia | 14294

Jesse Monteagudo writes about Robert Ross, Oscar Wilde’s friend and now largely forgotten with the passage of time.

“…Very few are acquainted with Robert Baldwin Ross, affectionately-known as “Robbie” Ross. Still, unlike Whitman or Wilde, Ross was openly gay for most of his life, which caused him many problems.

Ross, who was born in Toronto to a prominent family that helped to lead Canada for much of the 19th century, moved to England in 1888 where he studied at King’s College in Cambridge. As an out gay man, Ross was the victim of bullying, leading him to drop out of Cambridge and move to London where he became a journalist. There he met Wilde, who at the time was married to a woman. The two became lovers and eventually best friends, proving once again that a common sexual orientation often transcends boundaries.

Among other services, Ross introduced his friend to London’s gay underground. Sexual acts between men were illegal in England at the time and being gay was often dangerous. Ross himself got in trouble when he had a relationship with a 16-year old boy. The boy told his parents of the relationship, but fortunately for Ross, the boy’s parents were persuaded not to go to the police.

Ross’s open homosexuality continued to give him trouble. Because of his friendship and loyalty to Wilde, Ross won the enmity of Wilde’s jealous lover Douglas. Douglas, who after Wilde’s death repudiated his youthful homosexuality, tried to have Ross arrested and tried for homosexual conduct. In 1918, the last year of the First World War, right-wing Parliament member Noel Pemberton Billing, published “The Cult of the Clitoris” in which he accused Ross and his circle of friends of leading a cadre of 47,000 homosexuals who betrayed Great Britain to the Germans. Though not much came out of this stupid allegation, it proved embarrassing for Ross and his friends.

Ross died suddenly in 1918, just before the end of “The Great War.” In 1950, on the 50th anniversary of Wilde’s death, Ross’ ashes were added to Wilde’s tomb in Pere Lachaise Cemetery in Paris, where they are ignored by the throngs who visit the great writer’s tomb.”

Good feature.

Robert Baldwin “Robbie” Ross (May 25, 1869 – October 5, 1918) was a Canadian journalist and art critic. He is best known as the literary executor of Oscar Wilde, a dear friend and mentor. He was also responsible for mentoring several great literary figures, such as Siegfried Sassoon.


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